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Being A Yoga Student In Our Training

What does being a student look like in our program?

Yoga teacher training is a significant undertaking for every student. And one should be aware of the demands and expectations in advance.

Enter the Unknown – Some, if not much, of the content in this program may be new to you.  The content might seem foreign and unfamiliar.  It is a little like traveling to a foreign country where you may not have a grasp the language or the food is different.  The experience of travel is always revealing and can show you a world entirely outside of your known reality.

Experimentation You can also look at the yoga training as an experiment in which the outcome is not entirely certain, though you have a hunch that it will lead you to a better place.  Yoga practice is unique in that you are both the subject and the object of your study. 

You are not standing there doing tests on something in a petri dish. You are both what’s in the petri dish and the scientist. You are the canvas and the painter.  The program will support you in integrating the pieces of the program into the grand experiment of your life.

Dedication –  This program is challenging at times. There will be days when you joyfully anticipate class and other days when you may feel challenged and don’t want to go.  Apply yourself to the process to get the most out of it, and know that you will most likely not understand or integrate all of the content. Dedication will help you make the most of this opportunity.

Class Participation – The classroom thrives when people ask questions and fully participate.  Your participation contributes to the welfare of the greater class atmosphere. The program happens over an extended period of time and the cumulative effect of everyone’s participation is quite powerful.

Learn the Craft of Teaching Being a confident teacher is not a given. As with learning any craft, at first, it can be awkward and unfamiliar.  Inevitable questions arise such as: where do I position myself in the room? how do I demonstrate? how do I find my voice? What happens when many different skill levels show up in the same class?  And many other questions.

It can take months or even years of personal practice and teaching on a regular basis before all the components of teaching come together into one unified whole.  One gradually learns the best places to position themselves in the room, how to bring inflection into their voice, and how to see the postures with great insight.

You will also become masterful at designing classes that meet the unique needs of the students.  You might even accumulate a stash of jokes to let loose at the perfect moment!

Strong Reasons To Do Yoga Teacher Training

Seven Strong Reasons To Do A Teacher Training

No matter what program you decide to go with (ours or another), a yoga teacher training costs a lot of money, takes a lot of time and asks a lot of you personally. There are many reasons to never take one up. There are also many seven compelling reasons to do a training if you want to go further with your practice. And it’s essential if you want to teach.

Reason #1: Adios Sporadic Practice. You’ve read my thoughts about the importance of having a consistent personal practice. I believe that the most potent way to develop one is to do a teacher training.  Maybe you had a real streak in your practice at one time and faintly remember the magic.

I’ve spoken with so many people who think that what they need is to improve on their downward facing dog and develop a positive attitude, when what they really need is a steadfast and safe container in which to be guided into practices that unravel years of accumulated tension and start to re-vision how they see themselves and the world in which they live. 

Reason #2: Exponential Momentum. A 60 minutes asana class will only take you so far. The content of classes more or less repeats itself week after week versus a teacher training that builds sequentially and continuously, like a staircase taking you to the top floor balcony where you can see the entire landscape of yoga and your life. 

Dedicated attention from a knowledgeable teacher and a committed circle of peers will exponentially increase your growth. You will receive the support of the class and give support in turn.

Reason #3: Who You Become. One of the biggest benefits of doing a yoga teacher training is who you become. You learn how to manage your mind, eliminate distractions and chart a new path of greater peace and fulfillment.

You don’t just read about these things, you do them for 3.5 months. Yoga teacher training will put yoga at the forefront of your life.  Practicing yoga on a consistent basis for 3.5 months will forever change how you see yourself and how you relate to the world.

Reason #4: Become More Self Reliant. At the end of the program you may discover that you’ve become the source of your own happiness, rather than projecting your sense of worth onto objects or individuals. You’ll probably find that you live in greater accord with what is most important.

Reason #5: Live a Life of Service. Contrary to a lot of motivational hype, you are not defined by your achievements.  However big or small your role may be, you are here to embody your unique destiny, no more or no less.  When you bring the spirit of yoga to everything that you do: as a parent, as a student, as a boss or employee, a school teacher, or a minister or you just might find that you have become a secret agent of good in the world.

Reason #6: Find and Live Your Dharma.
Living a dharmic life is a far greater measurement of one’s success at yoga than how long one can hold warrior III.  The word dharma means ‘greater law or order’, it is what gives a particular thing its unique qualities. The dharma of a pumpkin seed is to become a pumpkin, and the dharma of a swallow is to build nests from mud and migrate thousands of miles each year without getting lost.

Because of our capacity for higher reasoning and reflection, human dharma is more dynamic and complicated. Every thought, word, and action can express one’s highest dharma, or not.

Overstimulation, harboring resentment, fantasizing or neglecting one’s responsibilities undermine the ability to live in alignment with higher dharmic virtues. 

Yoga helps us to discover and live into our unique dharma.  Yoga allows us to get still and quiet enough to hear the voice of our conscience and make peace with shortcomings. Following the path of dharma gradually leads one down the path of greater fulfillment and meaningful contribution – something everyone wants at their core.

Reason #7: Learn to Teach.  At some point yoga becomes a lifestyle.  It shapes how you eat, who you hang out with, how you think and even how you breath.  Teaching can be a natural extension of your values and your personal relationship to yoga.  It feels good to live congruently.

I consider it to be a blessing for both you and the students.

Many people are searching for some way out of their current working life and feel the need to make a greater contribution. Yoga could potentially be that outlet.  I suggest easing your way into the transition to becoming a full time yoga teacher.

These traits make for a good match

These traits make for a good match: 

There are lots of yoga teacher trainings in Denver. Each with its own approach and clientele.  Here is a list of qualities that most resonate with us. And, in full disclosure, the qualities that don’t.

  • You don’t see yoga as a fad, are hell bent on nailing handstand, ‘getting a workout’ or obsess about getting the best yoga pants.
  • You want to teach yoga (formally or informally). You know that life can be impossibly overwhelming. People struggle to manage their emotions, feel trapped within their lives, and spiritually depleted.  Yoga helped you to address all of that and it can help others as well.
  • You are easy going, friendly, giving and supportive of one another. You can get on board with a culture of ‘service’ and ‘support’.
  • You value being punctual, and starting class on time out of respect for your peers. You participate in classes and workshops by asking questions and even challenging some of the ideas presented.
  • You have a home practice (in some capacity) and want the most of each class.

Other positive qualities… 

  • You are willing and able to complete assigned papers and readings.
  • You crave to know yourself more fully and to be inwardly resourced when facing the challenges of life. You stretch into new territory and the discomfort that may go along with that
  • You appreciate that there are many modern styles of postural yoga and have regard for the roots of the yoga tradition. You want classic teachings beyond common cliches such as “this practice is for you”.
  • You have a genuine interest and curiosity about yoga beyond simple asana. Asana is a means to a much greater end that includes stability, equanimity, and spiritual development.
  • You have been doing yoga for 2-10 years.

And we have a special place in our hearts for people who…

  • You desire conversations and philosophies with depth. You value wonder and mystery more than “knowing things”. 
  • You can be open, honest and self-reflective and are willing to be vulnerable.
  • You find them at Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage), at the Tattered Cover bookstore, outside, and at meditation and yoga classes.
  • You are dubious of excessive technology and excessive materialism.
  • You desire a richly supportive community of like-minded seekers
  • You care about the welfare of the underserved and may want to bring yoga to those communities. You resonate with underground movements that do a lot of good although they don’t get much recognition. 
  • You appreciate that we are a good-hearted and small business. Some administrative details will feel more like a drive through a scenic country road than mainlining on the interstate.
  • You continue to seek balance in your life between your own needs offering help to others.

The following kinds of people are not a good fit:

  • People who are just in it for the certification and the cool clothing.
  • Only interested in yoga postures and not the greater picture of the yoga tradition.
  • Tend to isolate themselves from and not interact with their peer group.
  • Have no interest in personal development.
  • Are exceedingly dependent upon mobile devices. They could not see themselves getting through a lecture, or even a 10-minute break without logging in.

Yoga Has Pulled You Through

Yoga Has Pulled You Through Hard Times

It’s always fascinating to hear how people got into yoga.  For some the process was quite gradual. For others it was a more immediate and affirmative knowing.  “I did not even know it was possible to feel this way!?”

For others the road to yoga may have been more rocky and could generally be classified into one of five ways.   Perhaps you see yourself in one or more of them:

For others the road to yoga may have been more rocky and could generally be classified into one of five ways.   Perhaps you see yourself in one or more of them:

  • A Traumatic Event: For some this was a difficult divorce, ending a significant relationship, or an accident. Something has changed their lives forever and they can’t go back to how it was before. Yoga has provided shelter, healing and renewed hope and they want to build on that foundation and perhaps teach others.
  • Burned Out: Whether it’s being a social worker who is continually exposed to the plight of so many, a parent or caregiver (or just an over-giver) many people come to us depleted.  The stress of “trying to keep it all together” has become too much. Maybe they are looking for a career change. They may also come to us in malaise or even depression. They are ready to fill their cup for a change (and not feel guilty about it).

Life challenges seem to persist and yoga can be an antidote.

  • Wound Up: Others have come to us with unwanted anxiety, a stressful job,  feeling trapped, questioning if they will ever “be enough”, or generally frustrated with life.  Knowing how to regulate one’s emotions is a skill that can be developed with practice.
  • Physical Situation: a persistent health issue, sports or dance related injury, body image concerns, or general bodily discomfort. While we won’t promise any miracles, we are here to support one in feeling greater ease and vitality in one’s own skin.
  • Conscious Life Shift: Some have felt lost and without a compass. Others have overcome an addiction, a career change, a recent move or some other big life shift.   The timing seems right and they are ready to mature spiritually and finally do that teacher training they have been waiting for.

Regardless of the issue, yoga has provided some refuge and strengthened them, even healed them.  Maybe that’s you.
If it is, and you’re considering our Denver based yoga teacher training, here’s some of what we’ve learned over the years about who our programs are best suited and who they are not.

Yoga and the Five Koshas

 

Did you know that there are actually five of you?  ….Or rather, five distinct layers that constitute you.  Would you like to know what those five parts are and how you can support them through yoga?

Early yogic scriptures, espouse that we are much more than a mold of skin and bones that then gives rise to thought. Texts, such as the Taittiriya Upanishad, ascribe that we are composed of five distinct bodies or layers called koshas; each one increasingly more subtle than the preceding.  Many asana, pranayama and meditation methods are built around the kosha model and are designed to strengthen and harmonize each layer.

The physical body or “anumaya kosha” in Sanskrit, is the first and most obvious layer.  Anumaya kosha literally means the “food sheath”. It is constituted by the food that we consume.  Eventually, our physical body will become food for other creature -and thus the wheel of physical nature turns.

Eventually, our physical body will become food for other creature -and thus the wheel of physical nature turns.

Maintaining the health of the physical body, whether through diet, ayurvedic principles, asana or other forms of exercise will vitalize the physical body, prevent disease and prepare us for the journey within.

Pranamaya kosha, the second layer, is constituted by pranic-energy.  This energy is non-material though it influences the workings of the physical body.  Chinese medicine draws upon pranic principles through the use of acupuncture, which stimulate pranic-meridians to affect changes in physical health.  The sun is the ultimate source of pranic energy for life on earth -its invisible rays bathe the planet in life giving warmth.

The sun is the ultimate source of pranic energy for life on our planet
-its invisible rays bathe the earth in life giving warmth.

Prana is also present in the air that we breath and can be optimized through yogic breathing methods called pranayama.  Pranayama practices such as the yogic breath, alternate nostril breathing and kapalabhati are designed to increase the health and vitality of the second sheath.

One of the simplest ways to regulate the pranamaya kosha is by extending the inhalation and exhalation and making them as subtle and smooth as possible.  Aim to create a sustainable rhythm of breath. You can even integrate this practice into the postures, make each pose, or transition between poses, as a kind of breath meditation, become a connoisseur of respiration and sensation.

Think of it this way…

  1. Quality of breath first.
  2. Posture second.

Pranamaya kosha can attune our physical body and influence the third body, manamaya kosha, the mental/sensorial sheath. Manamaya kosha is the instinctual, reflexive aspect of our mind that is designed to keep us safe.  It tells us when we are thirsty and allows us to absentmindedly drive from point A to point B without any recollection of the journey. It also processes input from our five senses.

Western culture is entrenched in sensorial stimulation. Examples of this include having one dozen tv screens at a pub/restaurant, violent video games, or simple trying to manage so many life responsibilities that leave one unable to sleep at night.  Excessive exposure to these forces generate craving for further stimulation and ultimately leaves one’s mental/sensorial body depleted.

Excessive exposure to these forces generates the craving for further stimulation
and ultimately leaves one’s mental/sensorial body depleted.

Nourishing manamaya kosha requires being selective of the kinds of impressions we feed our mind.  Fortunately, there are many yogic techniques for replenishing the mental body such as the meditation kriyas, repetition of mantra (called japa), and pratayaha (sense withdrawal practices).

As a simple recommendation, abstain from the use of electronics for at least an hour and a half before bed to ensure deeper rest. Spend time absorbing the sights, sounds and feel of the natural world. We can also replenish our mind through meaningful work and fulfilling relationships.  Start a regular meditation practice.

Tantric-yoga informally designates these first three bodies as one-singular-body, because they are most obviously interrelated.  How we move and position our physical body (through asana) influences the quality of our breath. How we breath directly informs the quality of our thoughts.  And our level of awareness will inturn support us in becoming more sensitive to the needs of the body. Most modern yoga practitioners operate at the level of these first three koshas, gradually purifying their awareness so that they can develop the inner faculty to perceive the final two sheaths.

The remaining two bodies, vijanamaya kosha, the body of higher knowledge and undeterred will, and anandamaya kosha, the body of bliss, lye beyond the limitations of our rational cognitive mind. The methodical practice of yoga gradually reveals the light and power of these deeper dimensions of our being and lead to spiritual realization.

Whether we consciously recognize it or not,
each of the five koshas are perpetually in motion

Whether we consciously recognize it or not, each of the five koshas are perpetually in motion,  The process of yoga helps us to become sensitive to their presence and bring optimal health to each body.

If you have a desire to learn more about each of these koshas (including the final two) I invite you to attend our upcoming workshop on Saturday, June 28th from 9-3:30 where we will discuss each kosha further and do enjoining practices for each.  Handouts provided.

KOSHA WORKSHOP:
Saturday, June 28th from 9-3:30
3250 E. Sixth Ave.  Denver
(Inside of the church -upstairs)
Good Will Offering $75-150

REGISTER HERE

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda

Catch a glimpse into an experiment in progress by one of the Axis Yoga Teacher Training students.

The following posts describe how this student adopted some new habits and changed some old ones in an effort to finally deal with chronic allergies and asthma. With the help of Ayurveda and Yoga this student, like many others, discovers their own power to effect change and healing in all parts of the body.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Herbs

For my Ayurvedic experiment, I chose to attempt to alleviate something more physically immediate that was plaguing my existence: allergies. I have struggled with allergies, asthma, and eczema my whole life. I was always trying to figure out what was causing it but with very little effort into truly trying to understand the why’s and what’s of the cause and just hoping it would miraculously go away some day. I lived in Hawai’i when from ages 3-6 and I seemingly had no allergies there (except to cats). We moved to Florida right before my 7th birthday and that is where my struggles began. I would have frequent asthma attacks and needed to be hooked up to a nebulizer in order to breathe. It was miserable. I seemingly grew out of it but have noticed recently that perhaps I haven’t grown out of my asthma and allergies as much as I’d thought.

This experiment has led me to speculate that perhaps my asthma is allergic asthma. While my focus was not so much my asthma, the two are very much interrelated. I began taking the following herbs for Pitta and Kapha allergies: 8 shatavari; 1 guduchi; 1/4 shanka bhasma; 2 sitopaladi; 2 yasthi madhu (licorice); 2 turmeric; 2 coriander. I have been taking ~2 tsp once a day with warm water since March 20th. The first week was a little bit of a struggle, as I missed 3 days of taking it due to forgetfulness. I strongly dislike the feeling I get when I haven’t held up my end of a deal and told myself I need to figure out a way to prioritize it so that I don’t forget. I have found that taking the ~2tsp once a day during my morning routine is most effective for me.

At first the taste was not as bad as I was expecting. It reminded me of the end of a cereal box, where all of the grainy sugar and sweetness lies, except minus the sugar. It tasted slightly sweet, which I appreciated (as I gravitate towards such things), but swallowing was a little difficult. I could feel every grainy piece of the herbs I was taking. The first time I took it, I tried to just open my mouth, drop my head back, and dump the herbs on the back of my tongue to avoid any sensory displeasure. This technique backfired as I inhaled and simultaneously drew the herbs into my lungs and erupted into a coughing fit of regret and annoyance. I learned my lesson. It has now been 8 consecutive days that I have taken the herbs everyday without forgetting. I don’t feel that I have that much to report on in the way of results, but I can testify to the other doors that have been opened for me during this process.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Marijuana

As I mentioned before, I have been more able to discover more about my condition, what exacerbates it, and what I may do to calm it or control it. I am a huge proponent for the positive effects of using marijuana. As a CrossFit athlete, I put my body under intense bouts of stress. I lift heavy weights, and try to complete metabolic conditioning movements as fast as I can. Marijuana is something I have been using daily for several years (about 4 years) and it helps my recovery tremendously. I noticed that it also eased some of the anxiety and restlessness that came along with my college graduation. I have noticed that for the past several months, as my allergies have been acting up more, that metabolic exercise has been tremendously more difficult for me. I have so much phlegm and mucous that it literally makes it difficult to breathe. When I am in the middle of a workout and I have to stop because I can’t breathe and am approaching a moment of asthma panic, it is disheartening. It makes me feel that my inability to breathe is keeping me from reaching my goals and it feels unfair.

My Ayurvedic experiment is actually several different experiments all rolled into one. One overarching theme I have begun is to be more mindful in everything that I do. I have never been someone who has paid attention to anything that I wasn’t interested in or willfully trying to learn. I am a daydreamer and one of my biggest flaws is that I don’t listen (my moon is in Pisces if that helps a better picture for you. AKA – Space cadet here!). Being more mindful has been an uphill battle. It is really difficult to change something I didn’t even realize I was doing. This experiment has made me realize that as much as I love smoking marijuana for all the positive things it brings to my life, perhaps it is not serving me in the same way anymore. I have decided to take a two week break from smoking marijuana (as of April 2nd), which I may extend to a month or even longer if I discover that I don’t need it as much as I thought I did. I am really trying to pay attention to how that can serve me right now in alleviating my allergic asthma and allergy symptoms.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Sadhana

Another mini experiment that is all part of this broader experiment is changing my routine. For years, literally years, I have been truly wanting to change my morning routine, to not have my phone be the first thing I look at in the morning, to not lose 3 hours of the start of my day to Facebook and Instagram. I wanted to get up and practice yoga, start a meditation practice, read a book, do something that was going to enrich my life in my day to day. As part of my Ayurvedic experiment, I have also taken up tongue scraping, oil pulling, neti potting, and meditation on a daily basis. I realize that I am always so eager to experiment on my body in ways that I can control: food, allergy, hygiene, etc. These are all physical experiments that affect my perception of myself. What I realized is that I have been resisting making internal changes and putting forth the effort of doing things that seem hard or boring, which gave rise to my sadhana practice.
I began my sadhana practice on March 21st and have only lost one day to forgetfulness. Hearing that “no effort goes to waste” in our class presentation on meditation inspired me to always just try and to keep trying. I have been practicing sadhana every morning for 10 minutes as the last piece of my Ayurvedic morning routine. This morning I incorporated nadishodhana (my favorite of the 4 purifications) and increased my time to 15 minutes. I definitely felt the extra 5 minutes, but have seen positive changes from my daily practice.

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda: Change

I have made strides in being the observer and the observed. I have discovered that the Axis Yoga Teacher Training program has given me the extra push and support I needed to make those changes. I have come leaps and bounds from where I was 5 years ago, spiritually, mentally, and physically. I have made strides on my own that have positively affected my relationship to myself and to others and have helped shaped a more free, connected, and positive view of the world around me. Axis has given me support to pursue those changes I have been waiting to make and given me a community to be accountable to in the most enriching way. I am so grateful for this experience and am excited to keep applying what I am learning for more growth and understanding for myself and those around me.